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Restoration guidelines for wetlands of the western Prairie Pothole Region

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Restoration guidelines for wetlands of the western Prairie Pothole Region


Published 2012
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"Agreement Number: CD97847601"

"November 2012"

Includes bibliographical references (p. 114-123)

Wetlands of the Western Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) in Montana, Alberta and Saskatchewan, are widely recognized for their significance as critical breeding habitat for waterfowl. As threats to these important wetlands have multiplied, resource managers, landowners and conservation practitioners have increasingly turned to restoration as a way of offsetting losses and restoring wetland function and biodiversity. Because of the ecological complexity of wetlands in the prairie matrix, restoration efforts require a thorough understanding and application of ecological principals and processes, as well as an understanding of environmental and ecological parameters. These guidelines, which grew from our work assessing wetlands in the Milk, Marias, and St. Maryâs river basins, are presented as an introduction to the factors involved in undertaking wetland restoration in the region. Chapter 1 describes the wetland ecological systems and characteristic plant associations found in the Western Prairie Pothole Region of Montana. It explains how dynamic annual and seasonal changes of hydroperiod, water depth, and water chemistry directly influence the composition, diversity, and spatial distribution of plant communities within wetlands, and how both hydrologic alteration and drought can affect community composition. It also discusses how seed banks and persistent rhizomes and root systems, soils, and presence of organic matter also affect the spatial distribution, diversity, and composition of the major plant associations within a wetland ecological system. Chapter 2 focuses on the importance of understanding environmental stressors when planning a wetland restoration. The types and intensity of stressors are major factors in determining wetland health and condition, and the ability to eliminate stressors or mute their impact is a determinant in evaluating a siteâs suitability for restoration and the degree of recovery that can realistically be expected there over time. All of a wetland systemâs ecological processes and environmental and biological influences must be thoroughly assessed when considering restoration efforts, as each factor will help formulate rational and ecologically sound restoration goals and objectives for chosen sites. Chapter 3 discusses criteria for evaluating a wetlandâs suitability for restoration, emphasizing its relation to other wetlands, its landscape context, minimally disturbed soils and hydrology, and the presence of native vegetation in the wetland and surrounding upland. It also emphasizes the need to assess all potential restoration wetlands, using well-tested methods. In this chapter, we describe a three-tiered assessment approach used by the Montana Natural Heritage Program (MTNHP): a coarse scale GIS analysis, a rapid field assessment based on ecological indicators and a stressor checklist, and an intensive assessment emphasizing vegetation composition. Taken together, results from all three levels of wetland assessment can be reviewed to prioritize wetlands for restoration and management. Chapter 4 lays out the tools and techniques needed for planning an effective restoration project, including ecological reference sites. It offers suggestions on defining restoration project objectives, drafting the restoration plan, and identifying limiting factors that must be addressed to ensure a successful project. Chapter 5 introduces the challenges associated with restoring or remediating hydrology, including water sources, inundation periods, outflows, and drawdowns. It stresses the need to understand wetland hydrology at multiple scales,and carrying out thorough investigations of hydrologic stressors and alterations both at the site and in adjacent uplands. It provides specific advice on ditch plugging and actions to reduce sedimentation and erosion. Chapter 6 follows with an examination of hydric soils, and techniques for describing soil color, texture and structure, including evidence of compaction. We emphasize soil surface stability, and the factors that contribute to it, notably soil texture, slope length, slope gradient, soil type, flooding events or water input, and existing topsoil cover. Specific methods for improving soil surface stability, and balancing organic matter accumulation, are discussed in detail. Chapter 7 offers a detailed set of guidelines for the collection of seeds and cuttings for revegetation. We cover the steps required to obtain an adequate quantity and quality of genetically adapted seeds and cuttings to meet the goal of reestablishing self-sustaining plant populations. As part of these guidelines, we discuss how wetland and riparian species exhibit unique characteristics in their reproductive strategies, morphology, and ecology, and the importance of taking these characteristics into count in collection. We also give detailed instructions for handling and storage. Chapter 8 covers the selection, care and planting of nursery stock, including identification of outplanting windows, stock types for herbaceous and woody species, ways to harden, condition and store nursery stock, planting densities and patterns, and post-planting care. We also discuss plant salvage at impacted sites, and agricultural wetland conservation plantings. Chapter 9 concludes with a suite of guidelines for developing and implementing a restoration monitoring plan. It covers twelve components of a comprehensive monitoring plan, including considerations of budget and timing, the selection of performance indicators, identification of testable hypotheses, the QA/QC plan, and information sharing. We discuss how existing assessment protocols can be adapted to meet specific monitoring needs, and stress that restoration monitoring has to cover landscape context, hydrology and soils as well as vegetation. For projects that are too small or have too limited a budget to do full-scale quantitative monitoring, we describe the use of photo points for quantitative monitoring

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Volume 2012
Publisher Helena, Mont. : Montana Natural Heritage Program
Year 2012
Pages 163
Language English
Book contributor Montana State Library
Contributor usage rights See terms
Collection MontanaStateLibrary

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